Mary Witherspoon: Multicultural Scholar


Mary Witherspoon Pursues a Career in Health Education and Prevention

Sometimes it takes a major event to help one find a true sense of purpose. For Mary Witherspoon, a recipient of the Go Red™ Multicultural Scholarship Fund, this event was the tragic death of her son 12 years ago. Feeling lost and looking for direction after his passing, she decided to enroll in a nursing program at Chicago State University.

A strong student academically, Witherspoon struggled with the clinical portion of the program because it served as a reminder of her own son’s health struggles and what she had lost. Feeling grateful as she recalled the wonderful care her son and entire family had received before his death, she found the strength to continue pursuing her goal.

“I was able to see my patients as people who really needed help during a difficult time…people who were not only sick in their bodies but had other difficulties as well,” she says.

Financial problems, family issues, loneliness and general lack of information about following a healthy lifestyle were the many struggles Witherspoon witnessed in her nursing work.

“I sometimes found it hard to believe the lack of knowledge about heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses that these patients were dealing with,” Witherspoon says.

To help combat this lack of knowledge, Witherspoon has focused her career on health education and prevention and aims to improve access to care for people in underserved communities. She frequently turns to the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association and other nonprofits for materials and information to help educate people about their specific health risks. After several years of work in the field, Witherspoon has returned to Chicago State to pursue a Master’s of Science in Nursing, with an emphasis on community health.